By Bayside Group

Aug 20, 2020

Rhonda Brighton-Hall on making work absolutely human during a pandemic


In this episode of Work Conversations, Gavin Becker sits down for a conversation with Rhonda Brighton-Hall, founder and CEO of MWAH, or ‘Making Work Absolutely Human’.

Rhonda has made it her life mission to better the way we look at leadership, diversity, inclusion, relationships and trust in the workplace. She is a keynote speaker, runs game-changing workshops with executives and boards of some of the world’s largest organisations, is a published author and is Telstra’s Business Woman and HR Leader of the Year.

Behind these accolades however, Rhonda is extremely down to earth, describing herself as a determined optimist, HR aficionado and human being. And, despite her great success in the HR world, it is a career she fell into by chance after she was identified as a “people person”. And it’s a career she has loved ever since.

MWAH was founded in 2017 with the purpose of changing the conversation surrounding culture and leadership in the workplace, something that has become exceptionally relevant in the current climate of COVID-19. Rhonda explains MWAH’s way of mapping and measuring culture which, rather than using standard engagement scores that tend to be highly competitive, uses a “belonging index” to show where factors such as relationships and employees’ sense of belonging sits. This is one way for MWAH clients to deeply understand their own workplace culture. There is also a great emphasis on diversity and inclusion, which sees both management and employees using virtual reality technology to “walk in someone else’s shoes”. The VR simulates various workplace experiences so participants can begin to understand someone else’s lived experience in the work environment. MWAH then facilitates workshops, where teams discuss their experience with the VR, what it might be like to live as a minority, and what reactions this elicits.

Rhonda opens up about her career trajectory, which saw her working for organisations in countries such as the Netherlands, China, Singapore and the US in addition to Australia. In each of these, she was forced to adapt to the differing workplace cultures which helped to shape her approach to diversity and inclusion and how to apply this in the workplace. It was during this time that she also discovered the immense value in finding mentors to teach her about different behaviours and practices, which she explains allowed her to “get under the skin” of the culture.

With regards to COVID-19 and how it has shaped the working environment, Rhonda discusses how sudden and unexpected job losses across the country have seen people appreciate the significance of work in their life. Not just as something that offers financial stability, but as something that connects them to their community and gives rise to a sense of belonging and purpose. There is concern too, that the generation currently entering the workforce will not have the same access to on-the-job learning and mentorship due to the significant reduction of available jobs.

Rhonda has observed the ways in which organisations have adapted to the current situation, and believes those with strong leaders and well-developed culture - rather than cutting jobs - have instead decreased staff hours, provided equality and maintained open communication with employees. This has resulted in greater trust, generosity, and improved workplace culture. It wasn’t technology that facilitated this, she says, but good communication and transparency on behalf of these companies and their leaders.

 You can find Rhonda Brighton-Hall on LinkedIn here.

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